As a premier hotel marketing agency, Fuel takes pride in supporting cutting edge technology and employee development and education. These two passions seemed to merge at the Conductor c3 conference and we saw a great opportunity to not only learn more about the web presence management software that we currently use to optimize our clients’ accounts but also to learn from several other experts in other industries.
I was lucky enough to represent Fuel at the c3 conference and took home a lot of new ideas. Times are changing, folks, and it’s time to really start thinking strategically about your online marketing strategies.
Here are my top 5 takeaways from the c3 conference:
1.) Decoding Searcher Intent
Psychology has always been a fascination of mine so hearing Mike Grehan from Acronym speak on searcher intent was truly fascinating. Though this concept is far from new, there is a surprising amount of research and data to support different search trends and patterns.
Intent is defined as a state of mind powered by belief, desire, and a goal. This can be applied to user behaviors on search engines to create the taxonomy of web search, which classifies searches into three broad categories: informational, navigational, and transactional. By understanding the meaning of searches we can learn the search behaviors of our audience and then develop content that matches up with that searcher intent.
Mike had a great tidbit of advice:
“Nurture them [the searcher] through the stage they want to be at at the pace they want to be led”.
In other words, stop trying to force a pre-defined conversion funnel down the throats of your consumers; rather, pay attention to what they want and provide them with the information that they want at the exact moment that they want it.
Search engines have come a long way when it comes to understanding searcher intent and have complicated algorithms that are constantly being tweaked to not only understand broad search intent but also understand personalized searcher intent.
From a hotel perspective, it is important to note searcher intent and carefully craft content that meets the need of the consumer. Though the search volume for broad terms like “(My City) Hotels” is intoxicating, optimizing an individual hotel site for such an ill-matched term is risky business. In this situation, a searcher clearly has no clue where they want to stay and typed in a very broad phrase expecting broad results. Google knows this and found a way to further monetize these high-priority SERPs – enter Google Hotel Ads.
Just like that, organic search results are pushed below the fold as paid ads dominate search results. And, the entire first page that does exist below the fold is dominated by OTAs and mega meta-search sites. But fret not; tapping into searcher intent and developing content around specific intentions can help your website remain competitive, even in a cutthroat industry like travel.
2.) Defining Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are all the rage this year and if you do not have clearly defined audience segments for your business you are behind the curve. The art and science of developing buyer’s personas has progressed rapidly over the past few years and is now an essential part of a successful content strategy.
The key to successfully building out these segments is careful data mining and analysis. Your analytics platform is a good place to start, as is any other CMS or PMS system you might be using. In the case of hotels, using a system that can organize guest data in an easy to understand manner will aid in this process. Examples of a buyer persona for a hotel might include the busy business traveler, the multi-generational family, or the budget savvy mom. As with any product or service, truly understanding the needs and wants of your customer base should be a number one priority and the development of personas is the new way of building that understanding.
Conductor recently launched a new content mapping feature that can help you map out your personas and match them with website content to help better manage the entire process. I sat in on several sessions where marketers walked through their process of researching and mapping out the buyer personas using the new tool and am excited to set up this functionality for Fuel to test out with our clients.
3.) Matching Content With Buyer’s Journey
Buyer’s personas are only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Matching these customer segments to specific to stages in the buyer’s journey is the secret to success.
It was pointed out at the conference that the traditional conversion funnel no longer exists. There is often no single clear path to conversion; rather, people enter at different stages of the conversion funnel at different times and can travel back and forth to different stages multiple times in search of different information before they complete a purchase.
Tackling this rather messy situation can be daunting, but it is important to take things one-step at a time. First, it is important to identify each persona and then map out each step of the purchase process that a persona might go through in your particular industry. From a travel perspective, the business travel segment is going to have a much different process than a budget savvy mom planning a family vacation. Anticipate the information that your audiences want and at what stage of the conversion funnel that information is appropriate.
It is also important to consider your messaging throughout this process. As Wil Reynolds said during his keynote, “Stop Kanye-ing your audience”. A first time visitor popup is probably not appropriate across your entire website. I mean really, do YOU enjoy seeing popups on every single website when you are really just trying to read a quick article or quickly answer a question? This is just one example of when the messaging might not match the intent.
Another mistake that marketers make is coming across too salesy too early in the research process will send your audience running back to the SERP to find the answer they are looking for. Consider searcher intent with each phase of the buyer’s journey and match your message and content with what that person is actually looking for.
4.) The Growing Power of Video
Perhaps you have heard this stat before: YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Just let that sink in. More people are searching on YouTube, a video channel, than on Bing, Yahoo, or any of the other search engines that might come to mind in the world of SEO. Having a strong presence of YouTube can have an incredible impact for your brand and many smart marketers are beginning to truly see the opportunity that this platform provides.
Take Minecraft, for example. Originally launched in 2009, this game has become one of the most widely recognized computer games and has exploded for the young child / adult age demographics, primarily appealing to users aged 12 – 30. This same age demographic is leading the tech savvy generation and often turns to the Internet for answers versus the more traditional research methods employed by other generations. It is then easy to understand how “Minecraft” is the second most popular search query on YouTube with 44.3 million searches in 2014 alone. Type “minecraft” into the YouTube search box and you will quickly see several suggestions and adding further search parameters like “how to” or “build” will only reveal more options on things you can find on the topic. Minecraft users needed information and saw a clear opportunity to share their tricks and tips on how to use the game on a medium that matched up perfectly with their audience.
The YouTube boom has also led to an interesting sub-set of “celebrities” – the social media celebs. There are thousands of “verified” accounts of users who became “YouTube famous” through their careful content crafting and distribution efforts. Names like Jenna Marbles and GloZell might resonate with a larger (older) audience but other accounts like Smosh, Tyler Oakley, and Ingrid Nilsen – to name just a few – are riding the ranks of YouTube superstars. These stars grew up in the digital age and have used social media as a way to showcase their personalities and niche expertise. Not only do they have YouTube channels with millions of subscribers, but also thousands of followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Periscope, and written blog sites. And, they are getting paid big bucks for their reach through the growing field of influencer marketing.
What can we learn from these YouTube sensations? Well, not everyone can become Internet famous and most people or brands wouldn’t want to. However, creating a well thought out YouTube content plan is a winning strategy. People are looking to YouTube for answers – so why not be there?
Aside from the search opportunities that exist on YouTube, video content itself lends itself nicely to consumption. People are lazy – there’s no disputing that. Video consumption requires minimal effort and makes it very easy to create an emotional response that can be associated with your brand. This presents an obvious opportunity for travel marketers to connect the dots and create that emotional connection that comes with travel.
PS – Conductor also offers YouTube integration that offers insights on search terms, content performance, and more.
5.) Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Yes, I know it is 2015 and we are still talking about mobile. And no, I don’t care. We are officially past the mobile tipping point and need to really consider the implications that this sudden shift in device usage means, particularly when we take all of the above into consideration.
To begin with, people often perform research and purchases on different devices, particularly when the buying cycle is longer and the purchase item is larger. This presents several challenges, particularly when it comes to the dilemma of how to connect the dots between the buyer’s journey across several devices. And, for certain verticals, mobile transactions are incredibly important; how do we continue to optimize mobile performance without compromising experience across devices?
We also have to consider what people are using different devices for and what type of content is preferred at both different times of the day and across different screens. This will dictate what type of content you are promoting where and at what time you are pushing it. For example, video content is most often consumed via a mobile device with 36% of people watching “long form” videos every single day on the mobile device and 58% of respondents watching short videos on a daily basis. Additionally, more than 85% of Facebook’s users that regularly access the platform do so via a mobile device. All of these things need to be taken into consideration when forming a cohesive mobile marketing strategy.
Finally, we can’t talk mobile without talking apps. A majority of time spend on mobile devices is now spend in mobile apps – more than 85% as a matter of fact (source). Additionally, 80% of the total time spent in apps is split between just five apps. The heavy hitters here are (not surprisingly) Facebook, YouTube, Maps, Pandora, and Gmail. Other popular app categories include messaging apps, other social media apps, news apps, Amazon, and gaming apps. This is not a suggestion to go out and have a native app developed for your business. This is, however, a wake up call to really pay attention to where your traffic and conversions are coming from. Even if you do not think having a mobile website is important because you do not organically receive high volumes of mobile traffic – consider other traffic sources. Anyone that comes in through Facebook or Pinterest or Amazon or any other mobile heavy site or app needs to take this into consideration. You need to be where your audience is and there’s a pretty high chance that they are on mobile and in mobile apps.
It’s safe to say that I had lots of great takeaways that we are going to put to work for our clients and that I had a fantastic time in NYC.
Feel free to let us know if you have any questions in the comments below or drop us a line to learn about Fuel.